Industry Actor Use of Research Evidence: Critical Analysis of Australian Alcohol Policy Submissions
Governments’ limited adoption of evidence based policies to reduce alcohol-related harm has been partly attributed to alcohol industry influence. A better understanding of industry political strategy may help protect public policy against vested interests. This study examined how industry actors used scientific evidence in their submissions to government alcohol policy consultations.
A content analysis of 214 submissions from industry actors in 21 Australian public consultations between 2013 and 2017 was conducted. Represented industry actors included alcohol producers and retailers, trade associations, licensees, and associated entities that derive commercial benefit from alcohol (e.g., advertising companies). Adapting an existing framework, this study classified industry practices into two categories: (a) misuse of evidence and (b) denial of the effectiveness of evidence-based strategies.
Almost all submissions (91%) denied the effectiveness of evidence-based strategies; the most common denial practices were making unsubstantiated claims about adverse effects of policies (76%) and promoting alternatives without evidence (71%). The misuse of scientific evidence was apparent in 66% of submissions. Trade associations, producers, and retailers were most likely to use such practices.
The extent to which the examined industry actors misused scientific evidence in their submissions to a wide range of alcohol policy consultations in Australia suggests the need for governments to consider excluding the industry from consultation on the regulation of alcohol.